Dogs and puppies explore their worlds with their mouths. It should come as no surprise then that dog chewing is a natural canine behavior. Our pups chew for various reasons, and while it isn’t practical to expect our dogs not to chew, we can direct their behavior in appropriate ways, so they don’t destroy our most cherished belongings. The following tips are great for starting with a new puppy when you first bring them home and help an older dog, too.

Reasons For Dog Chewing 

Here are a couple of reasons for dog chewing:

Teething

When puppies are between 2 and 8 months old, they shed their puppy teeth, and their new adult teeth grow in. This process is necessary, but it can also be uncomfortable and even painful for your pup. While teething, puppies will look for items to chew on to alleviate their discomfort. If you don’t want your favorite pair of shoes or your phone charger to get destroyed, we recommend providing items you want your puppy to chew on. For more information on signs of teething and the best teething chews, read Top Tips To Ease Puppy Teething.

brown and white short coated dog on green grass during daytime

Keep Teeth Clean

If you’ve ever gone to the veterinarian and they tell you your dog has plaque or tartar buildup on their teeth, they have likely recommended you get your dogs something to chew on. Why? Because chewing helps dogs keep their jaws strong and teeth clean. Gnawing on harder, textured items abrades your dog’s teeth to remove built-up grime. Your dog chewing will ultimately benefit their dental health.

Fun/Boredom

It’s crucial to note that many dogs simply chew for fun. It’s a natural, instinctual behavior. Another of the biggest reasons for dog chewing is out of boredom. Chewing on something breaks up the potential mediocrity of your dog’s day and gives them something to do with their time.

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Problems That Cause Destructive Dog Chewing

While dog chewing is a natural behavior, that doesn’t mean that it can’t sometimes lead to destruction. Here are a few of the core issues that lead to destructive dog chewing.

Separation Anxiety

While most dogs chew, some dogs chew (or chew more vigorously) to relieve stress from separation anxiety. Dogs that chew due to separation anxiety usually exhibit other signs like whining, pacing, barking, and general restlessness. 

Fabric Sucking

Believe it or not, some dogs lick, suck, or chew fabrics. Some believe this behavior results from being weaned earlier than the usual 7 or 8 weeks old. If your dog chews material for long periods or it’s difficult to distract them from the behavior, it’s likely the behavior has become compulsive. If you think this is the case, consider finding professional behavioral help.

Calorie-Restriction

We put our dogs on diets for all sorts of beneficial reasons. If your dog gains weight or has a too-high body conditioning score, your vet will probably recommend limiting their caloric intake. However, it’s essential to realize that one common side effect of a dieting dog is destructive chewing. Your hungry dog will try to find additional sources of nutrition, potentially in places you don’t want them to, like the leather of your favorite dress shoe. Dogs often direct this behavior towards things that are related to food, like their food bowl, or to objects that smell like food.

How To Manage Dog Chewing

Both wild and domestic dog chewing can culminate in hours spent gnawing on a bone. Dogs seem to love chewing bones, sticks, or just about anything else they take a liking to. Though dog chewing is a natural and appropriate behavior, that doesn’t mean that everything a dog likes to chew is a suitable item. Read one for some types to manage your dog’s chewing. 

Dog-Proof Your House

Anytime you are trying to curb your dog’s appetite for chewing on your belongings, especially if your dog is young, you should dog-proof your home. This fact means that you need to see your house from your dog’s eyes and put away any items they could potentially turn into chew toys. Your shoes and clothing are targeted items, so keep all items in closets with the doors closed. If your dirty clothes hamper is outside of a closet, consider getting one with a lid. Put books and other small items up on shelves and tables out of your pup’s reach.

The more you set your dog up for success, the quicker they will learn what is and isn’t ok to chew on.

Give Your Dog Edible Items He Can Chew On

By far, the best way to manage your dog chewing is to give them items they actually can chew on. Items like pig’s ears, rawhides, and bully sticks are fantastic edible chew options that work even for dogs who aren’t big chewers. The tasty, edible aspect means most any dog will enjoy them. Make sure when you give an edible chew to your dog that they aren’t around other dogs; in the presence of other dogs, your dog will chew hastily and have a tendency to swallow big pieces to finish before other dogs take the treat from him.

close-up photography of white and brown dog

Offer Appropriate Chew Toys

Nonedible chew toys are a more cost-effective option for dog chewing. Instead of edible items your dog will likely eat in one sitting, chew toys last longer and provide more hours of entertainment. Try a couple of different kinds of chew toys with varying materials and textures, taking note of which items keep your dog interested the longest. Once you know what your dog likes best, you can keep a few kinds of toys on hand and rotate them in and out to keep your dog’s interest and maintain novelty. 

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Provide Plenty of Exercise

Dogs need stimulation, both mental and physical, every day. Without a doubt, the key to a well-behaved dog is to make sure you have a tired dog. Chewing provides mental stimulation, but physical exercise will help curb your dog’s chewing habits too.

Crate Your Dog

We can’t watch our dogs every second of every day. If you spend a couple of hours or more out of the house each day and know that this time is when your dog tends to chew things, you should consider crate training your dog

Encourage Natural Dog Chewing, Discourage Inappropriate Behaviors

As we stated above, dog chewing is entirely natural and instinctual. Chewing is not only good for our dog’s physical dental health, but it’s also essential for their mental health, combating boredom and anxiety. Our job as dog parents is to provide appropriate items for our dogs to chew and teach them which things they can and can’t chew.

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